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Drum lessons aren’t what they used to be.
Sure, you can still respond to flyers and Craigslist ads. You can still drive down to your local music store, and sit for an hour behind a worn-out kit in a cramped room with old soundproof foam on the walls.
But you don’t have to. Not anymore. Because a glorious invention called YouTube changed that. And it’s been awfully good to us drummers — one way in particular: instant lessons of every length in every genre from every killer drummer in the game today.
Even better, some of those drummers — five of whom I want to tell you about here in a second — consistently put out world-class content that blows your hair back.
From refining your technique and improving your coordination to simplifying complex fills and transcribing legendary solos, these guys do it all while making it look easy.
In no rank or order, here’s a look at five drum teachers you should be subscribing to on YouTube right now and what makes them stand out from the crowd.
With Quincy Davis — or Professor Davis if you’re one of his students in the Jazz Studies Department at the University of North Texas (UNT) — every video is a clinic. In fact, if you were to look at a written transcription of one of his videos, you might think it’s a syllabus.
Because video after video dating back nearly a decade, you find easy-to-follow, easy-to-apply jazz drumming lessons that Art Blakey himself wouldn’t hesitate to click on.
And could you blame Mr. Blakey? I couldn’t. After all, when you scroll through Quincy’s videos — “Q-Tips” he calls them — you find lessons with titles such as:
- “15 WAYS TO PRACTICE BETTER”
- “IMPROVE YOUR RIDE CYMBAL PHRASING AND MELODY”
- “3 SIMPLE WAYS TO ARRANGE ANY SONG AT THE DRUMS FAST”
But wait. Take a second. Reread those. What sticks out? To me, it’s that the lessons are practical. No fluff. No nonsense. Just real-world value.
This isn’t by accident. “Teaching abstract concepts or techniques does not interest me as this is not how I learned how to play,” he explained over email.
Yet something else sticks out. And it’s not just in those titles. It’s in his others too, ones on topics of comping, style, and soloing. It’s that he puts his lessons in the broader context of musicianship.
As he explains it, “It is also very important that I give musical and historical context whenever possible, so students aren’t only learning drumming skills, they are also learning how to apply them in a musical context and understand who these techniques and approaches were pioneered by.”
It’s not too surprising then that you’ll hear him humming melodies as he plays. “If we’re not using those [drumming] techniques and skills to make music with others, then they are useless.”
I’ll drum to that, Professor.
Nate Smith (The 80/20 Drummer)
“Play cleaner. Play better in time. And learn to improvise better.”
That’s what Nate Smith — also called by his YouTube channel name “The 80/20 Drummer” — says in his introduction video are the focal points of his lessons.
And digging into his videos that go back 8 years, I’d say he fleshed out those points and then some.
Because when you look closer, you spot a theme. It’s a theme that reflects the exact principle — the Pareto Principle it’s called — which states that 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts.
For Nate, that 20% is time spent practicing the right things, the highly specific but perhaps overlooked things that tend to separate good drummers from great ones.
For example, look at these topics:
- “How to Learn HARD Tunes on Drums”
- “How to Stop Overthinking and ‘Just Make Music’ on Drums”
- “The Hidden Coordination Flaw Even GOOD Drummers Have (and How to Fix It)”
Aside from mastering the art of writing insanely attractive titles, Nate picks out the little things, zooms in, and explores them for 10, sometimes 20 minutes with examples and analysis.
It’s here too that you find an unexpected element of transparency and vulnerability in his lessons, a sense of “I’ve been where you are right now.” This is never clearer than with titles such as “How I Finally Stopped Sucking at the Drums” and “Ever HATE Your Drumming? Try This…”
Well, Nate. I tried it. And my playing’s all the better for it.
Rob “Beatdown” Brown
The irony of writing about drum teachers is that you eventually find one who doesn’t feel like a teacher at all.
Enter: Rob “Beatdown” Brown — or should I say your new best friend, because that’s how it’ll feel watching any one of his videos going back 14 years.
And this you-don’t-feel-like-a-teacher quality is hard to put your finger on. With Rob, it’s how he blurs the line between lesson and conversation. Or how he titles his videos “Why Yo’ Funk Ain’t Funky! – And How to Fix It” and hosts hour-long “Ask Beatdown” livestreams.
Or maybe it’s how he’s just as comfortable teaching us from behind the kit in traditional grip as he is from behind the pad in matched grip. Whatever it is, it works.
And he’s quite good at it. “I think I have a knack for taking something I’ve learned and simplifying the process of teaching it by dismantling it and presenting in a way that even new drummers will at least kind of get it,” he explained over email.
Perhaps that’s why it works so well. No matter the topic — from flam exercises to syncopated grooves — the communication level is the same: to teach it in a way that even beginners have a light-bulb moment.
Consider the almost identical lengths of time spent on lessons for different levels:
- Nearly 15 minutes on “This Annoying Beginner Independence Problem”
- Just over 16 minutes on “3 Cool Exercises To Do If Your Coordination Sucks (Beginner / Intermediate)”
- 16 and a half minutes on “SHIFTIN’ IT LIKE GADD! – (Intermediate & Advanced)”
Now that’s what I call spreadin’ the love.
As for the learning itself? “There’s no actual end to it,” Rob wrote. “All of our favorite drummers are still learning. Masters continue being masters, because they’re always a student.”
Michi Held (Daily Drum Lesson)
I’ve never been to Germany.
But I know this about the place: It’s given the world some drummers who groove as if their lives depended on it.
In fact, you probably know many of them by their first names: Benny, Marco, Anika, Claus. Add to that list Michi. Michi Held.
Michi is a rare bird in the YouTube drumming community. Most of his lessons are short and sweet — coming in at less than a minute, in fact.
But those short ones aren’t lessons in the traditional sense. There’s no talking, no breaking anything down. They’re lessons by example with the on-screen notation and tempos to follow along.
It’s almost hypnotic. That relaxed technique. Those washy Meinls. Those ocean-deep Gretsch tones.
But Michi likes to shake things up. After every handful of less-than-a-minute lessons, he gives you a few 5, 10, 15, even 20-minute lessons on topics including:
- Linear fills
- Metric modulation
And despite most of his lessons being for slightly advanced drummers (or at least it seems to me), he explains concepts so plainly and shows notation of everything he plays that any preconception of difficulty just melts away like butter on a hot pan.
What’s not to love about that?
Bill Meligari (TigerBill’s DrumBeat)
I know I said in my introduction that I put these drummers in no rank or order.
And that’s true. For the most part. Because I saved the last spot for the one… the only… the OG of online drum lessons… TigerBill himself.
Sporting a gray flat cap and black TigerBill.com shirt in every video without fail for the past 11 months, TigerBill oozes old school.
In fact, he may be the last breed of YouTube drum teachers who still use one camera angle and no mic. But spending just 30 seconds watching one of his videos, you find that he doesn’t need them.
Because what you find is the wisdom of someone who has clearly been teaching longer than you’ve been alive.
Not only does he cover a lot of topics that others usually don’t — topics such as overpracticing, open-handed coordination, and getting different sounds out of your drums — but his lessons are often connected or referred to in his other lessons.
He even covers certain themes on certain days: “Newbie Drummer Monday” and “Tension-Free Tuesday.” And sometimes he doesn’t even play at all. He just talks for a few minutes on a given topic. I recommend watching:
- “Are You a Natural Born Drummer?”
- “Proper Technique Can Last a Lifetime”
- “Who Is the World’s Greatest Drummer?”
So as you subscribe to his channel, know that you’re getting more than just consistently useful drum lessons.
You’re getting lessons from someone who won the World’s Fastest Drummer Competition in 2004. Someone who got nicknamed “Tiger” by Joe Morello — yes, THAT Joe Morello. Someone who has had thousands of students before you.
And that’s worth its weight in gold.
The Big Takeaway
There’s no ONE way to teach anything. Drums included.
Thanks to YouTube, we get accessible, masterful lessons on every conceivable topic in drumming but without the pain of leaving home to find them.
But the best part? The five fellas in this article are just the beginning.
YouTube is an ocean. So go for a swim. You’ll be glad you did.